Employee Engagement

In a recent Inc. article, Management Consultant Steve Tobak argued that employee engagement is NOT important to business. He called it the management fad of the millennium which made our team at Viatech Global cringe.

Employee engagement is one of the most important parts of your business.

As an established business you have developed the majority of your products and services. While there are changes, the overall strategy, mission, vision and values have been established and implemented. Now you’re handling internal and external customers, employees and managers.

Employees who are not engaged tell bad stories about your company

Appealing, like Steve did in his article, to the bottom line orientation may appeal to some companies in some situations. The reality is that companies seeking long term success and growth perform differently as proven in Good to Great and Firms of Endearment. Take a look at the relationship between employee turnover and stock prices. In almost all cases the companies with lower turnover have higher stock prices AND they receive better customer ratings.

Even bottom line thinkers understand the cost of hiring and training new employees – or they should. It costs $3500 to hire and train an employee who makes $8 per hour. Over time these costs add up and can be avoided by creating a workplace culture than engages and retains employees.

Over time companies will experience three types of thinking and organizational culture – traditional, practical and intrinsic. Each experience helps a business learn and grow.

Traditional is the old system approach fathered by Fredrick Taylor. Everyone is seen as a cog in a wheel and people are replaceable parts. This philosophy is dated in some respects while in another it creates great efficiencies within organizations. The problem is when this is the only focus of a business. People will leave because they want to be valued.

The practical view is to look at people and their skills and experience in terms of how they can contribute to the success of the organization. There is a focus on results and processes and an attempt to have the right people in the right place for the highest productivity. This, like the traditional approach, still leaves out the passion for why people do what they do.

The intrinsic view is to not only have the right people in the right places within the organization. This approach recognizes that people will do what they do for their own reasons. Communicating the mission, vision and values of the organization creates passion. The passion is translated into increased productivity and high level customer care. The employee is no longer just a cog in a wheel; they understand how their role impacts the larger organization. That is powerful to the bottom line!

Ever go to a social event and meet a person who just would not stop talking about themselves? You ask a friend about their vacation and before they get two sentences out this other person interrupts with their story of visiting that same place. Every time your friend tries to continue, the other guy interrupts with a bigger, better adventure. Or after asking you what you do for a living he goes on and on about his accomplishments with no prompting inquiry from you. Dominating the conversation, you’re stuck standing there nodding your head and mumbling “uh-huh” over and over. Bored to tears, you’re trying to figure out how to escape.

Does that person resemble you? In networking environments there is always the pressure to get your message out, but is that effective?  Only if by chance you randomly hit exactly on a pain point of the person you are conversing with. Otherwise you’ve been saddled with the description of a boor and have incentivized them to get away from you quickly. I’ve experienced that and been guilty of it.

As a very talkative person with strong convictions I must be very aware when I am dominating the conversation in not necessarily a good way. What I do now is ask questions; find out about them, their family, how long in the area, who do they work for, what is their position/department, use questions to show their potential as a prospect or influencer.  I’m looking for the potential of them being interested in what I have to offer.

Usually, once they have slowed down, they get around to asking me about me. Hopefully I’ve discovered enough to customize my delivery in a way that relates to something I’ve learned during my questioning phase. My goal is to use a related story about something we have done that relates to them. Once the conversation gets around to me, I usually dominate it. I’ll quite often get “Wow, I’ve experienced that same thing,” that opens additional conversation about potential solutions and away we go.

How do you handle networking conversations?  What techniques have you found helpful?

The last time you started a job you may have felt that your new boss said, “ You’re Hired. Now Figure Things Out.” That’s not far from the truth about how most American companies operate. You are hired to quite literally fill a position, a desk, in a box on an organizational chart. If they could find a monkey or automate the work, you would not even be needed to fill that space. At Valve Software, the organization chart in the employee handbook is a dig at traditional organizations.

Most of the employee handbook is a dig at most other businesses and that’s the way Valve likes to operate. They can pretty much do what they want because they are not bound to lenders or people who own their ideas. The business is fully self-­funded and Valve owns the ideas and patents for their gaming software unlike anyone else in the gaming and software development field – and that’s not all that makes them innovators in American business.

Hold on to your seats: Valve wants their employees to be innovators who are thinking about where they can best serve the organization.

That’s right. Valve hires free-thinking innovators and creates an environment in which they can flourish. Why your desk has wheels is because the team at Valve wants their employees to be thinking about their next move within the company.

Where can YOU best serve the organization? When were you EVER asked that in corporate America? You have more than likely never been asked unless you have worked at Valve.

Team members of Valve actually move their desks to be closer to the teammates with whom they are working. There are maps not only of where each person should be; there are maps of where each team member is currently located. Pretty amazing and shockingly logical: Allowing employees to make decisions about their work and schedule creates and maintains an environment where employees are highly productive.

Here’s the catch – Companies like Valve have a specifically non­-corporate environment and not everyone is going to flourish in this culture. How to identify prospective employees who fit the corporate culture is one of the ways  Viatech Global can help your business grow. Our value science tools help employers identify, engage and retain employees. We want your business to gain the greatest value from your biggest asset – your employees!

As businesses continue to rebuild from the recession, it is important to understand how to engage and retain employees. Treating employees fairly is at the core of meeting this goal. It sounds simple but it’s often not well executed. Businesses see the bottom line and forget the path to the bottom line is the people within the organization.

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek understands how to treat employees fairly. He pays them a wage that sustains and retains them as employees. The industry average is $12.67 per hour compared to Costco’s $20.89 per hour wage. 80% of Costco employees have health insurance compared to 50% of the employees at their biggest competitor, Wal­Mart. As a result of having a living wage and affordable healthcare, they are less stressed, and happier. Jelinek believes that treating employees fairly is the key to creating a healthy economy. He might be on to something with the Costco stock rising as much as 30% since he became CEO. (Source)

There’s no secret formula for treating employees fairly. It’s all about who you hire and promote to leadership positions and how they execute the following:

  • Effective communication of the company mission, vision and values. Leaders need to have a grasp of what the company values in order to hire and manage employees who fit the company culture.
  • Set clear roles and expectations. Employees want to know what they need to do and how what they do fits into the larger company goals.
  • Establish a path to recognition and rewards at all levels of the organization. An effective recognition program will help engage and retain employees.
  • Mentor and coach employees to their individual styles. Not everyone learns the same way. Pairing complementary learning styles during the on boarding stage for example dramatically enhances the process as well as increasing the engagement of the individual. At all levels of training understanding how a person learns is crucial to training effectiveness and productivity.
  • Understand the personality types of employees at all levels of the organization to ensure they fit within the organization.

It’s on this last point where the team at Viatech Global can be most effective for your organization. We believe in helping businesses hire the best, empathetic leaders who treat employees fairly and with respect. We accomplish this by measuring their inherent talent to be leaders. To learn how we can help your organization engage and retain employees, please contact us.